Print Posted on 10/04/2017 in How-To

In the Wake of a Shooting: Taking Care of Mental Health

In the Wake of a Shooting: Taking Care of Mental Health

With the news of tragedy coming out of Las Vegas this week, we’re seeing that most media outlets are focusing on the same issues – gun control, the shooter’s motivation, and other things. We wanted to take some time to shed light on something that often goes overlooked – the mental well-being of those impacted by the shooting. The ripple effects of mass shootings on mental health are profound and something we think everyone needs to be aware of as we move forward from this event.

Who Can Be Impacted?

When it comes to mass shootings and other tragedies, the impacts on mental health extend far beyond those who were directly victimized by the shooting itself. Studies conducted over the last three decades have found ranges of PTSD in survivors of shootings from 10% - 36%, with far more survivors experiencing symptoms to PTSD that don’t meet criteria for a diagnosis. This means for those 22,000 people who were in attendance at this concert, they are at much higher risk for issues such as depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and other post-traumatic stress reactions.

However, the impacts on mental health don’t stop with those who were present during the shooting. Others who may experience mental health impacts include family members and friends of those who died or were injured, those who had a loved one attending the concert, the first responders on scene, and members of the local community. Even individuals with no direct ties to the shooting but who are exposed to details through media coverage are at risk for impacts on mental functioning.  

What Can Be Done?

Because there are many types of victims and ranges of exposure in this kind of incident, it’s important to keep in mind that impacts on mental functioning will look different across the spectrum. At a minimum, victims of the shooting and those present during it should pay attention to their stress responses and seek out care as needed. This also applies to first responders and the loved ones of victims. Members of the general public can decrease the likelihood that they will experience stress responses by avoiding an overconsumption of news around the shooting and being careful to avoid watching footage from the shooting if possible.

In times like these, the support we offer one another is tantamount. As we move forward, it’s key that we pay attention to the mental health of our loved ones and encourage them to seek out affordable care options if the need arises.


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